Networking events may seem scary, even for the most outgoing person. However, they can actually be extremely rewarding, valuable and fun! If you’re a student about to embark on a career path in your chosen field, or if you have no idea what you want to do, networking events will open many doors and can even make it easier to narrow down the exact job you would like to apply for.
They provide a platform for students and graduates to talk with potential employers, ask important application questions, meet like-minded people and spark inspiration.
Whilst some networking events are more general, there are some fantastic careers fairs and graduate fairs that focus in on particular areas of employment such as law, business, engineering and many more.
STEM Women networking events focus on addressing the gender imbalance in the science, technology, engineering and maths fields. Women are still under-represented in the majority of STEM-related workplaces, both in academia and industry, so these events give women an opportunity to grow their professional networks and meet STEM employers face to face.
Networking events like the ones hosted by STEM Women help to combat some of the barriers women face by providing a platform for discussion, sharing ideas and understanding different perspectives.
At STEM Women, we believe that networking is a crucial stepping-stone from university into the business world. So, if you’re thinking of entering into the world of STEM, here are just some of the reasons why you should think about attending one of our careers fairs.
Build your network and create opportunities
At networking events, the aim is to meet new people, have conversations and build strong connections with potential employers or recruiters. The more people you talk to, the more likely it is that you’ll meet someone who can potentially help your career. If there’s a certain company you aspire to work at, having a positive conversation with someone that works there could give you the edge in an interview.
Before you attend the event, it’s useful to review the list of organisations booked to attend and identify who you want to speak to first. After that you’ve completed your 'hit list', don’t discount those less well-known and not typically associated with your sector of interest; they might be offering just what you're looking for.
Connecting with people face to face is a more effective way of networking than through online channels. You can make much more progress in one event than you can exchanging LinkedIn messages over a period of weeks.
To help you maintain those connections, STEM Recruitment Consultant, Mark Newland, suggests: “Follow up with potential employers by sending them LinkedIn connection requests within the first 24-48 hours after the event. If you just include a quick explanation of who you are and how you met, it’s another great way to continue conversations.”
Networking events like the ones hosted by STEM Women also give you a great opportunity to build upon your personal network. You never know who could potentially offer you a job in the future!
Networking events are great for practicing your interview technique
Any interview practice is worth its weight in gold. Learning how to talk about yourself and sell your skills can be challenging, especially if you’ve had no experience, but practice really does make perfect!
There’s no need to worry about being a bit rusty, you’ll find that the people on the stands at graduate fairs will be welcoming and friendly. Don’t forget, employers also want to make a good impression on you too! Very often they’ll be recent graduates themselves and will remember what it’s like to be in your shoes.
Emily Hill, an employee representing KPMG, recently attended a STEM Women event: “I’m a second year graduate and I want to encourage women in STEM subjects, regardless of their background, to join KPMG and to see what they have to offer. At the event, I networked with so many different types of people and added a few people on LinkedIn. It’s really exciting to see if we can help them through their careers, and to see where they’ll end up.”
If you start by working your way around the room, you’ll soon learn some invaluable hints and tips on the best ways to present yourself. You can even ask for feedback from recruiters whilst you’re there.
Alastair from Sparta Global, an employer who attended a STEM Women event in London, offered some advice to students: “Be open, understand and learn about as many different roles as you can. Show an interest, walk on up and give a good handshake!”
You can also use this experience in future interviews. Often, employers will be impressed, not only if you’ve attended an industry specific event, but also if you can highlight who you engaged with and what the outcome was.
Inesa Sultonaite, a Mathematics student from Kings College London learned a lot from a STEM Women careers fair: “When you are just making applications you don’t get to know the companies on an individual level. This is a great opportunity to find out more information that you might not find online. It’s also great to be able to say, ‘oh I met this person at a networking event’ when in an interview situation, you will sound more passionate!”
Meet like-minded people
Industry specific networking events are often the most valuable to graduates and current students, especially if you are in the minority studying a subject.
Women remain dramatically underrepresented across all STEM careers, making up only 22% of the core STEM workforce. This makes it even more valuable and rewarding to attend career fairs for women in STEM, if only to meet other people who share the same interests as you!
STEM Women networking events provide a platform for sharing ideas and understanding different perspectives, helping students to break down barriers and form meaningful relationships within a new and exciting community.
Talking after a STEM Women event in London, Chemistry student Chika Chima described how she benefitted from meeting women like her: “First and foremost, I think I’ve got a confidence boost and the encouragement to keep going. I was able to speak to so many people who code and who are in the industry, in the careers that I hope to be in one day. Hearing about how they got there was really encouraging to me and making those connections was a great opportunity for me. It’s great to be able to say you know someone who is in the field you want to be in.”
Be inspired and break the stereotype
Many of the best networking events feature key-note speakers and panels with industry specific role models. These people will cover topics that are relevant to you and your interests, helping to spark discussion amongst attendees and employers.
At STEM Women, we believe that giving students access to female role models at networking events can help to inspire, build confidence and challenge stereotypes. By meeting like-minded people and role models, you can develop a clearer dialogue of what it is actually like to work in your chosen field.
We hope that female students will be more likely to join STEM education and professions if they can see people like them in these roles. A study by Microsoft in 2018 found that more than half (52%) of women aged 11-30, who looked up to either fictional or non-fictional people involved in STEM, said they were interested in getting a job in the sector. Less than a third (32%) of women without a role model said the same. 20% more UK girls said they could imagine a career in STEM if they had a role model compared with those who don’t.
Among young women in the UK who have a STEM role model, there is a 12% rise in interest in all the subjects in the field, the study revealed. They are also more likely to see themselves as high performers across the range of STEM subjects – most notably in maths – and see the value of hands-on experience in those lessons.
Anushay Usama, a Biomedical Engineering student at Queen Mary University London, expressed her enthusiasm after attending a STEM Women event in London: “I’ve learnt about new firms and gained a lot of insight into the STEM field and definitely want to pursue a career in it.
“It’s great for networking, improving interpersonal skills and learning about companies you want/have applied to, plus hearing about new companies.”
You may find the dream job you never knew existed
Whether you know the exact career path you want to follow, or only have a vague idea, networking events can open a whole new world of opportunities.
Stephen Rooney, Director of STEM Women events, suggested: “It’s good to have a list of companies that you definitely want to talk to, however, I also think it’s very valuable to chat with as many companies as you can.
“There are always a few companies who are searching for candidates from degree courses that you wouldn’t have expected and are offering career paths that many students hadn’t thought of before. Our events shatter a few preconceptions and help students think about their career choices in a different way.”
It's certainly always a good idea to go to networking events with an open mind. You should never avoid companies because you presume that they won’t have roles for you, just because of their industry or sector.
STEM recruitment consultant, Jodie Murray, continues: “You’ll be surprised that a lot of companies are open to who they bring on, such as tech companies hiring science graduates. You might just come across roles you like the sound of but previously thought you’d be unsuitable or not interested in!”
Have the chance to ask important questions
At these networking events, you will also have the opportunity to talk about possible career options, paths and benefits with employers. This the perfect time to really find out what you want to do with your future by asking industry leaders directly.
Whether you want to find out important information like application deadlines and graduate schemes, or if you’re curious about how many employees work in certain departments and the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of the interview process.
You may also find that certain professions require different types of resume formats or prefer to not receive cover letters. This is the type of invaluable knowledge that isn’t broadcasted on a company’s website and could make the difference when you apply.
Gathering as many business cards and LinkedIn handles as you can will continues to offer you more insight into the business world and the company you could work for in the future.
At careers fairs, it's your time to shine!
Whether it’s a graduate fair or a networking event, employers will be on the lookout for the best emerging talent. Showing that you have a vested interest in certain companies and the industry, in general, can work to your advantage. If you can show that you understand their function and have an enthusiasm and motivation to work for them, you’re well on your way.
It's unlikely that you’ll leave a fair with a definite job offer in your pocket, but if you’re prepared, you can significantly increase your chances at the application and interview stage.
Mark Newland, STEM Recruitment Consultant advises: “Always take along up-to-date copies of your CV to hand out to prospective employers and don’t forget to ask for their business card in return.”
So, what are you waiting for?
At STEM Women, we host a number of networking events that are perfect for women who are interested in career paths within the science, engineering, technology and math industries. Join over 1,500 women at our events and unlock amazing career opportunities.
Our graduate fairs are coming to cities across the UK, from Edinburgh to Dublin, Manchester, Bristol, London and Birmingham. Visit our events page to find out more and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with all the latest news and event information.
Did you know you can also become a STEM Women member? It’s completely free and you’ll have access to a monthly newsletter containing industry news, updates and all the latest jobs. Be the first to hear about exclusive volunteering opportunities and receive invitations to all of our events. Become a part of a growing community of women in STEM today, sign up only takes 30 seconds!